Motor Team (OT/PT)

  • Guiding Principles

    School-based Occupational and Physical Therapists focus on removing barriers from students’ ability to learn, helping students develop skills which increase their independence in the school environment, and educating school personnel about the different considerations required for students with disabilities. School-based therapy is designed to enhance the student's ability to fully access and be successful in the learning environment.

    The work of the school-based OT or PT generally falls into four categories:

    • Evaluate the motor and sensory functioning of students with disabilities and assist in determining service needs. Examples include skills such as mobility, eating, sitting up or hand-use.
    • Support access to education and co-curricular activities for students with disabilities and assist in determining service needs. Examples include modifying a student's school chair, adapting the computer keyboard or providing information to the school that supports building or playground accessibility.
    • Support safety of students and school staff. Examples include providing consultation and instruction relating to equipment needs, emergency procedures, and specialized procedures for lifting, eating, or physical management.
    • Help teach motor and sensory skills associated with success in school. Examples include planning, helping to implement, and monitoring instruction of activities such as sensory regulation, handwriting, cutting, walking, sitting, or wheelchair mobility.

    Related services are designed to assist a child to benefit from their special education program. Occupational and/or Physical Therapy services are provided when a child needs them in order to accomplish IEP goals. In this manner, OTs and PTs serve in a supportive role, helping students participate in and benefit from special education.

    Procedural Guidance

    • If the student needs regular contact with the PT or OT supporting motor skills in PE, recess, writing, self-management, or independent living skills, then this is direct service and it should be documented as a Related Service on the IEP.
    • If the student needs the OT or PT to help school staff include them in activities and/or bring additional expertise to the team outside the direct and related service providers, then this is indirect service and it should be documented under Supports for School Personnel as OT or PT Consultation.
    • OT or PT services can be documented as a Related Service, Consultation or both.
    • In all cases, related services and consultation should include regular opportunities for the PT or OT to interact with the student, monitor student progress, and team with staff and parents.
    • As in all components of special education, there may be individualized plans that differ from the guidance above. These should,however, be the exception and should involve consultation with the Student Services department.
    • Motor Services Under Section 504: Some students with disabilities may not be in need of special education, but may still need the services of an OT or PT in order to access school and learning materials. For these students, therapists may consult with the school staff to evaluate the motor needs of the child, help promote access, and ensure safety of the student. 504 coordinators should contact the Student Services department if motor services are being considered.

     Temporary Injuries:

    • If a student has experienced an injury and needs temporary motor support while they recover, the PT or OT can consult with the nurse, PE teacher and other school staff to ensure access.
    • Nurse and other school staff (including PT or OT) should have clear directions from the student's doctor about motor restrictions.
    • The PT or OT does not provide therapy.
    • The nurse is the "case manager" for students with temporary injuries and is the primary contact for parents.

    Motor Supports for All Students in General Education Classes:

    • OT and/or PT provide therapy and consultation specifically for students who are served by special education with motor needs identified in the IEP.
    • OT and/or PT can do informal observations of general education classes and provide general recommendations for full-class strategies that benefit all students, including:
      • handwriting
      • sensory regulation
      • seating/posture/body control
      • universal access
    • Our district guidance for PT/OT informal observation/screening

    Motor Services and the Child Study Process:

    • Child Study is a general education process. It is not special education evaluation. So it does not require parent consent. Instead, the Child Study case manager (counselor or IC) communicates with the parent to let them know we are engaging in the Child Study process.
    • If there are motor concerns in the Child Study process, the OT and/or PT can conduct an informal observation. This should be documented in the Educator Inputs section of Child Study in ePEP.

     If a student is currently receiving OT or PT services (related services or consultation), an OT and/or PT should be invited to the IEP meeting. In some cases, the OT and/or PT may provide input to the case manager rather than attending the meeting. If the team will be considering significant changes to the motor services on the IEP (adding a motor goal, removing OT/PT services, etc.) then the OT and/or PT should be present.




    Motor (OT/PT) FAQ's

    When should OT and PT services be documented in the Present Levels? 
    Any time they are listed in the Services Summary, whether as related services or consultation.
    Should OT and PT services be documented differently if a student receives a more intensive level of support?
    The services should be documented the same, regardless of degree of support the student receives. The IEP should indicate what the student needs. This is separate from placement considerations
    How should OT or PT services be requested?
    The Case Manager or Circles of Support team coordinator should send the OT or PT and Student Services an email. The OT or PT will consult with the Circles of Support team or case manager to determine the best course of action for the student and whether an OT or PT evaluation is necessary.

    My student has outside/outpatient PT services - How is the need for school-based PT services determined?

    The purpose of an academically relevant PT evaluation is to determine if a student is developing the necessary skills for participation in the education process. Recommendations are based on the individual student’s needs. Service delivery should be provided in a manner for the student to meet the educational goals in the least restrictive environment in order to access the curriculum. Physical Therapy is a supportive service and must be designed to support the student’s IEP goals. The services may be in the form of related services directly to the student or consultative in the form of Supports for School Personnel. If interventions can be implemented by the teaching staff, paraprofessionals or parents, then direct, skilled PT is not indicated. 

    School-based PT services focus on access to the educational process and environment, and are directly connected to the IEP goals and accommodation for the student. School-based PT services may be provided as a push-in support within the educational setting (PE, playground, classroom), in a small group, or individually, based on the student's needs and goals.